Clean mobility: Embracing multimodality

European Mobility Week encourages us to experience the benefits of clean and active transport, explains Henrik Hololei.
Photo credit: Flickr

By Henrik Hololei

Henrik Hololei is European Commission Director General for Mobility and Transport

12 Sep 2018

I think everyone would agree when it comes to using transport, the daily decisions that we make matter. The di¬fferent modes of transport that we choose play a significant role in providing overall connectivity, shaping our urban areas, impacting travel safety, space allocation, respiratory health and much more. Opting for walking, cycling and collective modes of transport can have a positive impact not only on our quality of life, but also on our cities.

Nowadays, we can recast transport as a means to enhance our lives and connectivity. Using digital technology means we can plan our trips, more e¬ffectively we can catch up with reading on the metro, improve our health by walking or cycling, or send o¬ some urgent emails on the train.

Smoother, more seamless transport can also translate into a financial benefit for society. For instance, congestion alone is estimated to cost around €100bn - one per cent of the EU’s GDP - each year.


If cities were to invest in modern and smart infrastructure, including for cycling and walking, in comparable amounts to that invested in motorised transport, congestion times across all modes could be cut considerably.

Urban mobility also accounts for 40 per cent of all CO2 emissions of road transport - a figure that can be greatly improved, particularly as Europe strives to improve the quality of life in cities and to meet its commitment under the Paris agreement. 

If we have the willingness to test out new ways of moving, and our political leaders have the courage to support the necessary legislative changes or infrastructural improvements to encourage sustainable means of transport, we could enhance our well-being and make our cities even more pleasant places to live and work in.

European Mobility Week, which takes place from 16-22 September each year, seeking to improve quality of life and public health through promoting clean mobility and sustainable urban transport.

It is a flagship EU awareness-raising campaign, organised with the political and financial support of the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission. The campaign gives people the chance to explore the role of mobility in their daily lives and to experiment with practical solutions to urban challenges, such as air pollution and road safety.

Last year saw a record number of participants, with over 2,500 towns and cities from 50 countries taking part in the campaign. Its popularity has even spread beyond Europe, with towns and cities in the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Mexico all registering.

Each edition of European Mobility Week is held under a di¬fferent theme. European transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc has called for 2018 to be designated the ‘Year of Multimodality’, which will be the focus of this edition.

Multimodality is the mixing of transport modes within the same journey or for di¬fferent trips. Many of us instinctively opt for the same method of transport (usually the car) without thinking about the already many available alternatives. 

Often, by combining these alternatives we can make our trip more efficient, more cost-e¬ffective, more enjoyable and more sustainable. Embracing multimodality is down to individual choice, but there are a number of measures that can be taken by local authorities to make the concept more attractive. 

In Vienna, the city has developed a “Mobility as a Service (MaaS)” application for mobile phones, which makes it easier for residents to plan a trip within the city.

The app shows how di¬fferent forms of transport can be used to achieve the most efficient journey possible. As well as providing real-time information, Vienna’s MaaS platform also enables users to buy tickets online.

Low-tech means of stimulating multimodality can also be highly e¬ffective. In Esch sur Alzette in Luxembourg, the local authorities installed signposts for pedestrians that indicate distances in walking time.

Thanks to these signposts, travellers can decide the most logical way to complete their trip, be it driving, taking public transport or simply walking for a few minutes. One common misperception is that car journeys are relatively cheap compared with public transport. When including the costs of insurance, petrol, upkeep and parking (not to mention the purchase price of the vehicle), the costs quickly add up. By combining driving with cheaper transport modes, such as public transport, or free modes, such as walking or cycling, the long-term savings can often be substantial.

For local governments, European Mobility Week provides an excellent opportunity for presenting sustainable mobility alternatives to local residents and for explaining the challenges facing towns and cities.

By taking part, towns and cities can showcase the benefits of cleaner transport choices and make progress towards better mobility in Europe.

Therefore this September, I encourage all towns and cities, both big and small, to join the campaign and to experience first-hand the benefits of multi-modality.